Celebrating 10 Years Of D.I.C.E.

by Annette Gonzalez on Feb 09, 2011 at 02:15 PM

The Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences (AIAS) is a not-for-profit organization that focuses on the advancement and recognition of our industry through a variety of programs and initiatives -- one of which is its annual D.I.C.E. Summit. This year AIAS is celebrating the 10th year of D.I.C.E. with many special events planned this week in Las Vegas, all of which we are attending and covering right here on gameinformer.com. We caught up with AIAS president emeritus, Joseph Olin, who tells us about the summit's humble beginnings, its purpose, and why the event matters to both you and the video game industry.

What's the idea behind D.I.C.E.? Why create an event like this?
D.I.C.E. was started as a means to help fund the Academy. The people running the Academy 10 years ago, the members, were dissatisfied with what GDC had become, where it went from being a gathering of 1000 people to 5000 people. They felt there was no longer a place for the senior creative people in games to get together and just talk. GDC is just track after track after track and how do you negotiate among 5000 people? Going forward today, GDC is four times that and there’s more need and more desire to have an event that’s just for the creative community, which is the greatest thing that D.I.C.E. ever does, which is put very smart, talented, creative people in a room outside of their daily jobs and give them the opportunity to share ideas.

What was the first D.I.C.E. like?
Small. It was about 200 people. A lot of the people who spoke at D.I.C.E. that year were board members so it was sort of flying at the seat of their pants in terms of topics addressed. The sessions were geared more toward people sharing their philosophies, and I think that’s the one thread that runs across all iterations of D.I.C.E. It’s not really about ‘What I’ve done’ but ‘What I think is important.' We’ve tried to make sure whoever we invite to speak at D.I.C.E. talks about their philosophy, not what they’ve done. Everyone in the room has done something great, so giving a postmortem on your latest million selling game, there’s 20 people in the room who could get up and do the same thing. There’s little value in that. So ask someone like a Brian Reynolds (Zynga), core game maker, 'Why would you want to make Farmville? Where’s the game in Farmville?' Obviously there’s 60 million people at the moment who think it’s great so it’s an important type of conversation to have and typically only happens at D.I.C.E.

How many people attending this year?
We sell out every year. It’s about 700 people.

D.I.C.E. stands for "Design, Innovate, Communicate, Entertain", how does the event encompass that?
If you look at the speakers that we have, you’ll see some focus more on design philosophy, some will address that games are no longer games, just isolated segments of the world. We’re just another form of entertainment, and as such, we have to work harder to compete for mindshare with everyone else’s entertainment plan. Do I download something and watch it on my iPad? Do I play a game on my iPad? Or do I put a disk in my PS3 and get lost for a couple hours? Do I go to a movie? Do I just go hang out with friends at a coffee shop?

Games are now not just for that segment of people who want to play games. Everyone who plays games is playing and doing other things. The challenge this year, which I’ve asked speakers to address, is where games are in the real world. What do we have to do to challenge ourselves and continue to innovate, to get people to think that games as an interactive entertainment are time worth spending?

How is an event like this important to the standard consumer?
The consumer gets a dual benefit. Number one, thanks to our partnerships, certainly with G4, all of the sessions will be made available, so people will have the opportunity to hear conversations with their favorite game makers. That’s an interesting way to get behind the scenes, humanizing the process of game making, and how it’s just everyday people who are just a little bit bent and crazy and that’s why they choose to do this. From the industry perspective, the other thing that consumers get are the benefit of collaborations that happen over a drink sitting outside in the sun for a few seconds between people who are sharing ideas, and all of a sudden people who have never worked together decide they are going to work together on a project, and you’ll see the fruits of that relationship a year from now.

Where do you see D.I.C.E. and the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences in the next 10 years?
As technology becomes so seamless, everything that has a screen we expect that there will be a game on it, the challenge is to embrace all the different types of games that encompass all the different types of screens that we play on. Somebody was showing me the games on their Kindle. That’s the last thing in the world I’d imagine seeing a game on. I wonder if you can play Limbo on a Kindle because of the black and white screen. That can be a real challenge. The Academy needs to be the constant voice of creative talent and recognize that if it wasn’t for the talent in the room, or the talent of our members, no one would be able to play the games they’re spending hours of time on, even if it's Angry Birds. I don’t know if anyone wants to spend 50 hours a week trying to level out on that game, but I get why it’s great for two minutes while you’re sitting at a bus stop killing time. The Academy will continue to look for platforms to take a look at these talented people that do what no one else can. The Academy will continue to look for ways to foster creative development in a way interesting to people that are fans of games.

What are some of the highlights at D.I.C.E. this week that our readers should look out for?
From a reader perspective, I think one of the things is the Interactive Achievement Awards. The most exciting thing is getting together with GameStop and our friends at Guildhall to create the Indie Game Challenge. We all want blockbusters because they’re great games, but they’re also financially lucrative, and we don’t want to forget that all the people who make blockbuster games today weren’t making blockbusters 15 years ago. The Indie Game Challenge is a great way to encourage your readers ‘Hey I can make a game!’ For $99 anyone can get an iOS kit, anybody can get a working version of Flash from Adobe, and all these are fair game to be able to make a game.

When we announce the winners Friday night it will be significant. A team who gets $100,000 as amateurs, it’s a nice cash prize. The biggest reward is the meetings we arrange for them with game makers interested in their work to give them feedback and pointers, maybe offer them jobs, or offer to buy their game. Ultimately it’s like Sundance.

Keep your browser locked on gameinformer.com for all the latest coverage out of D.I.C.E. Summit 2011. You can find the full D.I.C.E. schedule here.